After reading A Prayer For The Dying and now Snow Angels, I count Stewart O'Nan among my favorite authors. He puts his characters in stressful situations and then writes about how the events of their lives are resolved.
Snow Angels is really two stories. One is about Annie and her estranged husband, Glenn, with whom she has a 3 year old child, Tara. The other is the story of 14 year old Arthur Parkinson who is the narrator for his part of the book. Both Arthur's family and Annie's family are dissolving; Arthur is more of an unsuspecting witness to Annie's deteriorating life than she is to his. They are connected because Annie was Arthur's babysitter when he was a child.
What made this story so interesting to me were the parallels between Arthur's life and Annie's husband Glenn's existence. On the surface they'd seem to have little to nothing in common, but dig a little deeper and there's more similarity than is evident at first. They both repress emotion so people closest to them really don't know what they're thinking. Arthur has a closer relationship to his drugs and music than he does to another person. Glenn's closest personal relationship is with his dog, Bomber. Both of their lives are deeply affected by women; Glenn by Annie, and Arthur by his mother.
In the interview included at the end of the book, author Stewart O'Nan says this book began when an incident happened in Ithaca that was followed closely in the press. When the outcome of this event became known, O'Nan simply couldn't wrap his brain around how a person could do what was done in this case. It is the kind of incident that to me is inexplicable, and O'Nan doesn't attempt to explain it or justify it in any way. In fact, he changes some of the details so that his story is about more than what can happen to a child. Still, the characters he created are memorable and stayed with me after I finished the book. I highly recommend Snow Angels to those who like to read about what motivates people in stressful situations to which there are no easy answers.